New Jersey’s “Striper Bounty”
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service
s I write this article during the first week of November water temperatures are wavering between 55-58 degrees here in Central New Jersey. This temperature is at the high optimum end of the range where we should see striped bass start to actively feed in our New Jersey waters. This is also a temperature where peanut bunker will be heavily on the move exiting from our backbays and rivers.
As this water temperature drops through this month the action will only get better and more and more blitzes will take place on a more regular basis. When water temperatures are between 55-51 degrees we should see some of the best action of the month. This will depend on however how consistent of a weather pattern we have. We will need to have light winds preferably out of the northwest to trigger the best action.
The fall blitz action that we are accustomed to seeing in October in both Monmouth and Ocean County waters never really materialized this past month so we have a lot to look forward to in November to erase those bad memories of many fishless or not so great days. There were days here and there when the action was rewarding but these were few and far between and limited to the boater for the most part. Surfcasters have had virtually no fall action that anyone can speak of as being exciting so far.
Most surf anglers that I have talked to at the end of October had not yet caught a bass that had topped the ten pound mark and very few if any caught a false albacore in the surf this fall. The usual run of these speedsters that takes place along the beach was virtually non-existent this season. Even the run up at the Sandy Hook surf where false albacore will show up more than any other place in Monmouth County was poor.
The first weekend in November continued this pattern along the oceanfront that we have seen for most of October. There was plenty of bait around but with very few stripers in them. The saving grace however is that bluefish have been cooperating and making up the bulk of both the beach and boat catch at this time. Bluefish are running from small cocktails up to around the ten-pound range. So far this fall Wednesday November 2nd has been the best day on the beach as both striped bass and bluefish were blitzing.
The results of the Monmouth-Ocean Interclub Striped Bass Surf Tournament hosted by the Asbury Park Fishing Club on the weekend of October 29-30th confirms how tough the striped bass fishing really has been. This is the first Interclub Tournament that I can remember were only one out of the seven clubs registered a tournament fish. With all the excellent surf anglers fishing in this tournament it shows that the striped bass fishing has been slow. 1st place Shark River Surf Anglers 189 pts. All other clubs Asbury Park Fishing Club, Spring Lake Live Liners, Bradley Beach Fishing Club, Berkeley Striper Club, Monmouth Beach Fishing Club, and Surf City failed to weigh in a legal size bass. The largest striped bass weighed in was caught by Jerry Taylor Barry of the Shark River Surf Anglers and weighed 24 lbs.
We have also seen a lot of changes in the topography of the beachfront in the last month as two big nor’easters in less than a week in October did tremendous damage to our already battered coastline in terms of beach erosion. This is a terrible thing for beachfront communities in terms of protection that has been lost and beaches that have literally been taken away where summer tourists sat only a couple of months ago. Needless to say this is a serious problem and the worse case scenario as we begin to enter our winter storm season with our beaches now at full exposure.
These negative impacts however have exposed more jetties and have increased pocket water along their sides, reshaped sandbars, and created new cuts and troughs. This will be advantageous for the surfcaster in the next several weeks as the shallow and somewhat featureless intertidal zone topography has become more three-dimensional. When a storm removes sand from the beach it deposits it right in the surf zone as unstable bottom material. This is also conducive to the formation of rip currents that always attract predators.
These new features will provide a more structurally diversified avenue for bait to migrate along the beach and to be trapped and captured by stripers and blues. This will come into play as our peanut bunker migration reaches its peak right around the time of the full moon in November. This year this will take place on the 16th of the month. The downside of this moon should put the greatest concentration of these baits on the move.
It can be frustrating however when bass and blues are blitzing peanuts as they can become rather selective and only want the real thing. Typically cast to strike ratios can go down. For this reason your best bet will be to snag a peanut bunker and fish it live. This method will also get you into some of the biggest fish in the school that may be feeding on them.
To snag a peanut bunker place a one-ounce egg sinker on your main running line sandwiched between two 75 lb barrel swivels. Attach this to a 24-inch leader of 20-30 lb test with a 1/0 bronze treble hook tied on. Cast out into a school and gently pull with short jerks through the bait. Once you connect with a bait attach it to a single hook and let it swim freely. In a short period of time it will eventually sink to the bottom of the pod. It is at this point that it should be picked up by a bass if it was left untouched by a bluefish.
If you choose to fish artificials instead, then try the Mr. Bunker style rattletrap. It’s 4-inch length and 1-1/4 width nicely matches the profile of the peanut bunker. Fish with a slow steady retrieve. Strom Wildeyes or Tsunamis shads in the pearl or bunker color will also work well. So will surface action poppers like the Polaris in white but may at times produce smaller fish.
If you find this happening then cast out and jig down deep with 2 oz crocodile spoon to produce the biggest fish in a school. Allow the spoon to hit the bottom and then reel up or lift up for several feet. Drop it back to the bottom and repeat. Retrieving through the pod will also produce strikes. The crocodile spoon has out fished all other metals that I have thrown when peanut bunker are on the scene. Buy them if you don’t have any.
Big swimmers Gibbs and Atoms will also work well. These swimmers are sometimes most productive when a pod of bait has moved on down the beach and you fish them where the pod was. Bass will be trailing or remaining behind these pods feasting on the injured or stunned baits that cannot keep up with the main body of bait.
November will also be a great time for fly fishers as bass and blues will be right at your feet in the surf and easy to find by boat. Stripers and blues will be more than eager to strike out at your flies. Our Shore Catch Capt Gene Quigley’s Geno’s Baby Angel, Bob Popovics’s baby bunker, bucktail deceiver, and bangers, along with Steve Farrar’s bunker patterns, Lou Tabory’s slab flies, and wide-bodied deceivers will all work well.
These should be fished on a clear cold water intermediate striper line when stripers are in the surf or up in the water column around the boat. These lines will coil less and cast well as the air and water temperatures drop. If stripers are holding deeper when your out on the boat than use a 300-400 grain line or a Rio T-14 sinking head to get your fly down to the level that the fish are out. Use your fishfinder to determine the depth at which the fish are holding.
Fly fishers can also employ some blitz tactics that can increase your success. Rather than just casting and retrieving these tactics would be to cast and fish along the edges of the pod of bait, remain behind the pod and cast after it has vacated the area, drift your fly in the pod without stripping it, or fish below the pod. In each instance your fly resembles an injured, stunned, or dead bait all of which will get the attention of an opportunistic bass that is looking for an easy meal.
Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved
Articles by Captain Jim Freda
- A Quick Lesson for a Little Night Flying
- A Word to the Wise...Wader
- August, More than Meets the Eye
- Bang'em Up
- Beach or Bait? Perspective on Surf Fishing & Beach Replenishment
- Bunker and Trophy Bass
- Bunker, Bunker, and More Bunker and Big Bass Too!
- Busting the Blues
- Clams, Bunker, or Herring for Springtime Trophy Stripers
- Coldwater Stripers, Dredging with the Fly
- CPR for the Fly Fisher - Color, Profile and Retrieve
- December’s End, Watching or Catching?
- December's Grand Finale
- Fall's Surf Smorgasbord
- Fly Fishers-Pick Your Tools Wisely When Getting Started
- Four Baits to Know For Your September’s Surf Success
- Get'em with Sand Eel Imitations
- Getting Started in the Salt
- Know Your Baits and Flies
- Jump to the Back for Early Spring Stripers
- Longest Yard, The
- More Lines Less Flies
- My March Madness
- New Jersey’s “Striper Bounty”
- November Trophies
- October' Harvest in the Surf
- Peanut Bunker Blitzes-Jersey Style
- Running and Gunning, Proper Boating Etiquette
- Saltwater Fly Fishing Perspective
- Saltwater Fly Fishing in the Surf
- September Surf
- Shooting the Suds, Albies on the Fly
- Simplifying Fly Lines
- Slack Water Explained
- Springtime Big Bass
- Spring Baits and Flies
- Stretching into Spring
- Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer
- Striped Bass Game Plan of Summer (Part II)
- Stripping for Success
- Surf Scanning
- Tackling Big December Bass on the Fly!
- Take Me to Your Leader
- Ten Degrees of Blitzes
- Tips and Tidbits
- Trophy Tactics
- Trophy Weakfish on the Fly
- Try for that Trophy Bass on the Fly!
- Wind Direction and its Localized Effect on the Striper Bite
Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast,
has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen,
with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.
Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and StriperSurf.com. Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.
As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.
He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.
For more information, please go to Shore Catch Guide Service www.shorecatch.com